LONG ISLAND, NY After 14 straight years in the top 15, many would view 18th place as a disappointing showing for the Michigan women”s swimming team, but not coach Jim Richardson.
“Anywhere in the top 20 is good for this team,” Richardson said. “Maybe we could have done better, but I like the way we finished.”
The last day of competition provided the team with some long awaited success.
In an amazing upset performance, freshman Emily Fenn became the Wolverines” only All-American with a sixth-place finish in the 1,650-yard freestyle.
Fenn dropped 11 seconds off of her previous personal best with a time of 16:18.87.
Because she was seeded 18th coming into the event, Fenn competed in the second of four heats, and could only watch the final race and hope that her time would hold up.
Finally, more than 40 minutes after she emerged first from the pool, Fenn realized that her time was good enough to stand on the winners” podium.
“It”s just a shock right now,” Fenn said after the race. “This will keep me motivated for months and years to come.”
The freshman Fenn may have been the All-American, but the Wolverines” senior captains saved their moment in the sun for Saturday evening”s final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay.
Both Jen Crisman and Missy Sugar posted lifetime-best splits in their final race for Michigan good enough to win the consolation heat and secure ninth place.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, the entire meet didn”t go as well as those two particular races.
Crisman entered the championships ranked fifth in the country in both the 50 free and the 100 backstroke.
But she failed to reach the finals in either one, finishing 12th and 13th, respectively. The performance ended her three-year run as an All-American.
Richardson pointed at two things that kept this team from another top-15 finish an emphasis on their conference meet and a lack of star power.
“We finished in the top 10 here a bunch of times” Richardson explained. “But those teams were top-heavy.”
“We don”t have superstars here, but that”s okay with me.”
The team”s upper echelon was further depleted when Olympic gold medallist, Samantha Arsenault, opted to sit out the championships to rest her ailing shoulder.
But even without Arsenault, Michigan was focused from day one this season, not on the NCAA final, but on a 13th Big Ten title in 15 years.
“We all realized that we tapered for Big Ten”s. That was our goal all year,” Sugar said. “And when you do that, it”s hard to swim well again here.”
“I”m not going to let anything that happens here detract from the great job they did at Big Ten”s,” Richardson said.
“That was the truly great thing this team accomplished this year.”